Renovation of run-down tennis courts to begin May 14

By Caitlin Operman

Macalester’s tennis courts will get a long overdue makeover this spring. Beginning May 14, the courts will be completely replaced for the first time in 19 years. The project is expected to be completed by early Sep. The tennis teams and the administration first noticed significant deterioration of the courts in spring 2011. “The courts took a dramatic hit after three weeks of freeze thaw,” Director of Athletics Kim Chandler said. “The topcoat, which is the colored layer, and the asphalt below it stopped bonding.” As a result, significant patches of the court began cracking and peeling off. The men’s and women’s teams opted to use the courts during their short fall season nonetheless. “We couldn’t use two of the [six] courts in any way because of the damage,” player Chris Fowler ’12 said. “In all, there was only one court where we could safely play an actual practice match.” Despite hope by athletics staff that the courts could remain usable enough during the spring season, this past winter was the final straw. After evaluating the facility, coaches, players, and athletics staff declared the courts unusable. “They are just not courts that I would deem to be safe,” Chandler said. Because the start date for the project is dependent on overnight temperatures among other factors, men’s and women’s tennis teams have been forced to practice off campus at local high schools. The men practice regularly at Central High School while the women use Highland Park High School’s facilities. “Since all of our matches are outdoors, it is essential that we practice outside,” Fowler said. “That being said, our practice schedule isn’t greatly hurt by the move to local high schools.” Player Carmen Whitehead ’14, however, describes the team’s schedule as “extremely hectic.” “It’s hard to get to practice because we have to drive ourselves, and only a few of the guys have cars,” she said. “If the weather is bad, then we have to go indoors, which is hard due to last minute scheduling.” All of the team’s home matches have also been moved to nearby high schools. While Fowler sees a benefit in having more neutral match sites, Whitehead misses playing at Macalester. “All of us are disappointed,” Chandler said, “especially for our seniors that they haven’t been able to play at home.” Chandler has been impressed by how well players and coaches have responded to the situation. “The teams have been really understanding and flexible all year in terms of the schedule,” Whitehead echoed. Although the Athletics Department usually resurfaces the topcoat of the courts every five to six years, fully rebuilding them is an extensive and expensive project. A total rebuild requires that all four layers of the court–base, sub-base, asphalt, and topcoat–be replaced, a process projected to cost $175,000. “We took soil samples to assess what layers needed to be repaired and then had an architect draw up the plans,” Chandler said. “We are waiting until May 14 to begin construction in order to avoid parking difficulties and distracting noise at graduation. The Athletics Department had originally anticipated that re-doing the track would be the next big project, but the tennis courts have become the priority in recent months. “Not only have our teams been impacted, but classes and community use the courts as well,” Chandler said. In light of the wide demand for these facilities to be updated, Fowler remains unclear about why the department didn’t act sooner. “I don’t understand how nothing was done about the courts when it was known in early Apr. last year that our courts needed immediate resurfacing,” he said. Speaking about the size of such a project, Chandler noted that “we have to be thoughtful and understanding to figure out what it takes to get our facilities up to speed.” “I think that we as a team just want them done as soon as possible,” Whitehead said. “It should be nice to come back next year to a great new facility.” The new tennis courts will feature a U.S. Open style, blue courts with a green apron, a style that makes it visually easier to differentiate court boundaries, according to Chandler. Fowler would like to see blue courts with orange lines, but orange isn’t on the list of topcoat options. Blue courts are only one of the qualities on Whitehead’s wish list. “I would like the courts to be more durable this time, and done well so that they last,” she said. refresh –>